In order to start the divorce process while representing yourself, you’ll need to complete some forms. You can obtain the forms online, from the Nebraska Supreme Court's online self-help center. These are official forms, but you should double-check with your local court to make sure the judges there will accept them. You can only use these forms if all of the following statements are true:
Be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. Fill out the forms on a computer if you can. If not, write or print neatly and legibly.
The forms you are required to complete differ depending on whether you have children and also on whether you are the plaintiff (the spouse who initiates the divorce) or the defendant (the spouse who is served with divorce papers). If you and your spouse have minor children (meaning, kids who are financially dependent on you and who aren't legally emancipated), you need to use the Simple Divorce with Children forms. But if you don't have any minor children together, you should use the Simple Divorce without Children forms.
To start the process if you and your spouse have minor children:
To start the process if you and your spouse don't have any minor children:
When you’re ready, make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original. Eventually you will give the original to the court, one copy to the defendant, and keep the last one for yourself.
Go to your local courthouse (the one in the county where you or your spouse are living) and ask to file the complaint, the Vital Statistics Certificate, and the Confidential Party Information and Social Security forms. You’ll need to pay a filing fee of $157 unless you complete the Affidavit and Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and the court agrees that the fee should be waived because you're indigent (meaning, you can’t afford it).
Once you have paid the fee (or had it waived) and presented the correct, complete forms, the clerk will create a divorce file and assign it a case number that will go on all future documents. Serve your spouse as soon as possible after leaving. If you don't serve your spouse within six months of filing the complaint, your divorce case will be automatically dismissed.
When you’ve prepared and filed your forms, you should immediately serve your spouse with the documents. Service of process is very important in the American legal system because it ensures that everyone has notice about what’s going on and an opportunity to “appear,” or argue, their point of view. Service of process ensures that no one is ever “ambushed” in a courtroom.
If your spouse is an adult who is pro se (meaning, has not hired a lawyer), then you should serve your spouse directly at the location at your spouse’s home address. If your spouse has retained a lawyer, serve the lawyer at the lawyer’s office and don’t send copies to your spouse.
If you're the plaintiff, special service rules apply. You have two basic options:
Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is very hard to locate, in the military, out-of-state, or in jail. Check with your clerk of court for more information in these unusual situations.
After the plaintiff serves the defendant, the defendant has 30 days to file an Answer and Counterclaim.
Both spouses have to complete a Financial Affidavit in the initial phases of a contested divorce (meaning, a divorce where the parties can't agree on all the terms). The affidavit is a statement sworn in front of a notary public that details each spouse’s financial picture, from employment to assets to liabilities and monthly expenses. This helps everyone to understand more about, for example, how much child support should be paid, or whether one spouse should receive alimony. Make sure you are clear, detailed, and candid when you complete this form. File it with the court and serve it upon your spouse as well.
See our page on Nebraska Divorce and Family Laws for information on the divorce process and related legal issues.
Legal Aid of Nebraska is a nonprofit that serves low-income Nebraska residents with legal problems. Their extensive website contains a "Represent Yourself!" section with information geared to self-represented individuals, including a legal dictionary and a family law section that contains a divorce handbook and an FAQ about Nebraska divorce, among other things. You can apply for legal representation online or by telephone.